Print Isn’t Dead: Take a page from local zine queen Charissa Lucille

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Charissa Lucille is a cultivator of creativity and community.

The 25-year-old boasts a journalism degree from ASU, something she says led her to her ultimate calling—making and selling zines to promote awareness and self-expression.

After creating her own zine, Fem Static, while still in college, she now owns and operates Wasted Ink Zine Distro, a zine shop located in The Hive Gallery in downtown Phoenix. The shop is home to over 200 DIY publications of varying shapes, sizes and topics, but Lucille says passion and community are the driving force behind each of them. The shop also hosts an array of events including poetry readings, open mic nights and workshops.

College Times sat down with Lucille to discuss zines and what exists between and beyond their pages.

What would be your concise definition of what a zine is?
A zine is a self-published, small circulation magazine that is either by one person or many people. They can be color or black and white. The production style can vary. They can be cut and pasted and Xeroxed or they can be bound, hand-sewn, hand-pressed. They can be small, they can be accordions that fold out. Fan zines are really cool because that’s really how zines started, about music and movements.

Tell me about your time at ASU and how that shaped who you are and what you’re doing now.
I started going to ASU in 2009 and I enjoyed my classwork…but I really did feel as though in journalism school they really teach you to be unbiased, to not really voice your own opinions in your pieces and I appreciate people who can do that, but I just don’t think that I can. I’m too opinionated. I’m too passionate about a lot of things, including feminism and environmentalism—the list goes on and on. It was kind of hard to turn all of that off. I felt like I wasn’t able to say what I wanted to say. I had internships. I did wonderful things. I incorporated photography a lot of the time into what I was doing, I got a few pieces published in local newspapers, but I really wanted to publish what I wanted to write about. I asked my mom, “Where would you suggest I publish this piece of feminist writing in Phoenix?” and she said, “Nowhere.” That’s kind of when I had the aha moment that I have all the skills now because of journalism school to start my own magazine—to start my own zine. So it happened in 2014, just a few months before I graduated. I didn’t know anyone else who was doing this so I was very in the dark. I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing and that may still be true. Then I came out with this zine and it was just me and one other person and now we’re working on our ninth issue. It went from those two people and now the contributor list is up to about 25 for each issue. I graduated and I was working at a camera shop for a long time and that was kind of nice because I had a lot of brain space to focus on the zines and the culture and the community, but now I have a more “grown up” job in social media management, which I’m good at, but it’s a little soul sucking. It still gives me enough brain space to be able to create and I think that’s really important.

Tell me more about Fem Static. Do you have a central theme or something that you try to focus on for each issue?
The overall theme is fourth-wave feminism and that has to do with where we are now and sort of reflecting on the third-wave and even the second-wave of feminism, but it really focuses on intersectionality. It focuses on the use of media to bring people together, to shed light on a lot of really tough topics across the globe that we haven’t even really thought about as white women. That’s sort of the overall theme—and making sure that people feel included in that overall conversation. For each individual zine, there are sometimes one or two topics that I’ll ask readers to focus on, whether it’s body positivity or eco-feminism. One of my more recent issues was kinks and cosplay through a feminine lens. It was a really interesting topic. When I choose topics, I try to choose stuff that’s relevant, things that people are already talking about that they may be willing to write about and make art about. Right now, I’m working on a zine about the election. The due date is at the end of January and I already have so much in my inbox to work with, so I’m hoping to publish that the first week of February.

How did you cultivate your team of writers? Do you reach out to them or do they come to you?
It’s interesting because sometimes people say, “I just googled fourth-wave feminism and it popped up” and that’s wild. In 2015, I was at every event I could be at tabling. I didn’t care if I sold anything; I just wanted people to have conversations with me. Part of my feminism is engaging in those conversations, even though they’re not always comfortable. That’s how a lot of people learned about it and knew about it. I also did this wild thing where I would just hide my zines everywhere, like libraries and bookstores. I kind of was just like, “I don’t care, I’m just going to put this here,” and if they threw it in the trash, someone still saw it. A lot of it was social media. I would post all my calls on Tumblr and that really got a lot of interesting voices from different places. It just shows the reach of these efforts.

Tell me more about Wasted Ink. Now you’re selling other people’s products. How did that align with your own endeavors?
One theme I continuously turn to is that you don’t need permission to create. With zines, you can make whatever you want. You can say whatever you want. There’s no censorship. Really the only problem you run into sometimes is printing costs and that can be a huge problem. We started having zine nights at coffee shops and 10 people would come and be like, “What are zines?” and we were like, “We need our own space.” We were in Tempe and one of my friends owned a candle shop and said, “We’re moving out…the space is available. Do you guys want it?” It was very humble beginnings, but we went for it and opened the shop in a month and did everything as fast as we could. We just used the momentum of our own zine in order to get the word out about WIZD and take donations for the library and it evolved super quickly. The zine community is close and tight-knit but it’s all over the United States, so there’s a lot of Facebook groups of zine makers and organizers, so it was really easy for us to contact all of those people and say, “Hey, we’re opening a distro. Please send your stuff in.” The name is kind of a funny story because we had all these names written out, and everyone was like, “Why are you wasting ink? This is just for fun; it’s a cute little project,” and I just kept saying, “This is important.” So it’s wasted ink; this is where the ink lives.

Were there a lot of people who challenged this idea? How do you help people understand its importance?
A great example is a local bookstore in Phoenix. I brought in my first zine and they were like, “Well, the zine scene is pretty dead.” So, to hear that and then years later, have a huge zine fest with 65 vendors from all over the United States and to have a shop that is currently self-sustaining, it really just shows that all the zine community needed was someone to believe in it, someone to give it attention., someone to say, “No, this is a valid form of media, this is a valid art form.” It’s definitely not dead.

Tell me about the zine community in Phoenix. Would you say you’re pioneering it?
I’m just giving people the opportunity to have their work seen and sold. Because you make 50 copies of a zine and you’re like, “Now what?” Giving people that representation here in Phoenix is important to me because the zine community was scattered and underground. It was hard to find. There were zine events but they were very small. They were kind of chaotic. I mean, zines are chaotic—it’s art, it’s punk rock, it’s DIY, but there has to be some kind of rhyme and reason to it. There’s two main groups I see in the zine scene right now—there’s all these old zinesters that are in their 40s and 50s who are like, “This is what it’s always been about,” and then you have these 19-year-olds that come in, and they’re like, “I made my first zine because I saw your shop.” They have no rules, they have no concept of what a zine should be or not be, what art should be or not be, and that’s really inspiring. I try to keep an open mind because we see so many diverse topics and shapes and sizes and colors. They’re all amazing. More and more people are coming in and saying, “I made a zine” and that just blows me away because when I first started, I had no one. I didn’t have a community. I didn’t have resources. There’s so much that goes into it and I would rather people have those resources now. When you publish something and people are excited about it and people are proud of it, it really feels big.

We have regulars and they come in each week to look at the new releases, and that’s really exciting to see them and have that relationship build. We moved to this location in December because Quick Trip bought our building and asked us to leave. It was scary, but we had a GoFundMe up for two weeks and reached our goal. It was a small goal, but anything is monumental, especially for a zine shop. Now we have the benefit of foot traffic. Before, it was kind of a destination location. It was removed and in a weird strip mall. Here, we have a lot of art around us. We just feel more at home.

We have a lot of diverse events that all have to do with art. We had a skateboard photography zine release. It’s all these weird different things that all fit together because of zines, because of community, because of what we’re doing and I think that’s pretty awesome.

As far as topics of our zines, we have a zine about post-it notes, we have a zine about the California drought. There’s this one zine about a kangaroo stripper who is addicted to cocaine. We have dinosaur coloring books, we have poetry, we have feminism, we have environmentalism, we have a lot of social justice zines, which I think right now are really important.

Where do you see the zine community going in the next few years?
The Phoenix Zine Fest 2017, we hope to have it be bigger. We have a bigger team this year. Things are growing and they’re growing very fast. More and more people know what zines are. More people are teaching workshops. Zine libraries are popping up all over Phoenix. Would I say that’s because of us? No, but it’s because of the people doing it.

Why are zines so important now, maybe more than ever?
Zines provide a platform for marginalized voices, people who feel like they don’t have a say otherwise. Everything that people want to say, they can say it in a zine. It provides alternative media to what we see online, what we see in traditional journalism platforms. A lot of the zines tell stories. That allows people to learn or open their eyes or see things in a different light or larger perspective. Zines are monumentally important right now because of our current political climate. And it provides them a platform to do it artistically and on their own terms. It’s authentic, it’s personal, it’s DIY, it’s kind of like a little piece of heaven.

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